Failure of talks puts Kinshasa on rebel alert

Zairean rebel radio warned citizens of Kinshasa to stay away from "strategic areas", saying the first attack on the government held capital could come at any time.

The warnings follow the inconclusive results of this weekend's peace talks in Congo, which have left rebel leader Laurent Kabila free to go ahead with his threat to capture the capital by force. The advance rebel units are believed to be within 100km of the capital, having moved 300km since capturing the city of Kikwit a week ago. Reports in Kinshasa say that rebel radio is claiming some of Mr Kabila's fighters have already infiltrated the capital in civilian clothes.

Speaking in his southern base of Lubumbashi, Mr Kabila has given President Mobutu Sese Seko three days to resign unconditionally or else "perish with his power".

Mobutu aides yesterday rejected this ultimatum, describing it as the "words of a hoodlum".

The US ambassador to the United Nations, Bill Richardson, visited Mr Kabila in Lubumbashi yesterday in a last ditch effort to persuade him to pursue his objectives by peaceful means.

The drive on Kinshasa comes despite Sunday's face-to-face meeting between Mr Mobutu and Mr Kabila, which took place aboard the South African naval supply ship Outeniqua at Pointe-Noire in the Congo. Although Mr Mobutu has agreed in principle to step down as President, thereby fulfilling the rebels' avowed war aim, hopes for an immediate end to the conflict proved groundless when the two men failed to agree on how and when this should happen.

According to a communique released after the meeting, Mr Mobutu wants to remain head of state during a transition period leading to elections. Mr Kabila refused to accept anything less than Mr Mobutu's immediate resignation and says his Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo- Zaire should manage power during the transition period.

The chairman for the talks, South Africa's President Nelson Mandela, said he plans to bring both sides back together next week for further talks. In the meantime, he made it plain, there was little prospect of a ceasefire - "Ceasefire is not in Mr Kabila's vocabulary," he remarked.

Life went on much as normal in Kinshasa yesterday, despite the growing prospect of a rebel attack. Most Kinshasans now say they would welcome Mr Kabila's rebels to their city. After 32 years of corrupt and incompetent rule the ailing President Mobutu is deeply unpopular, and few people now fear to say so.

Many observers in the capital believe that, in the absence of a ceasefire, it will fall in the next few days, possibly without a major battle. The rebels have encountered only light resistance from the government's undisciplined army in their long march from the east, and there is little sign that the army is prepared to put up a real fight now.

The government claims to have launched a counter offensive, with elements of the elite Presidential Security Detachment (ESP) which it says is holding the rebels along a 60km wide front. No apparent effort has been made to fortify key installations around the capital, and no curfew has been imposed.

Many Zaireans fear that the main threat to their safety comes not from the rebels but from the government army, which has a long tradition of violence against it's own people.

Across the Congo river in Brazzaville several thousand troops from the US, France, Britain and Belgium are on standby to evacuate foreign citizens in the event of an attack.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
News
people
Voices
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger & Credit Control Assistant

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Ledger & Credit Control...

Recruitment Genius: Project Administrator

£16000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Administrator is requ...

Recruitment Genius: International Trade Advisors - Hertfordshire or Essex

£30000 - £35379 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The company is based in Welwyn ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Controller - Response Centre

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn